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May 7, 2019 11:49 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Hampton Village Looks To Sag Harbor For The Future

People dining on the streets of Sag Harbor Village on Monday afternoon.  KYRIL BROMLEY
May 7, 2019 1:13 PM

“Why can’t the Village of East Hampton look more like Sag Harbor?”

It is a question the East Hampton Village Board gets asked quite frequently, referring to Sag Harbor’s relatively bustling commercial district, with second-story apartments, outdoor dining and a number of ice cream shops.

The answer, according to East Hampton officials: Because East Hampton Village lacks a sewage treatment facility.

The East Hampton Village board discussed a draft request for proposals at a work session on Thursday, May 2, in its search for professional insight into a sewage treatment plan, a study of zoning rules, the prospect of creating second-floor housing for workers, and providing ample parking and circulation. The board’s objective is to create a village commercial district revitalization plan.

Village Administrator Rebecca Hansen said the request for proposals should be approved at the board’s May 17 meeting.

At the Thursday work session, Billy Hajek, the village planner, told the board that “one of the major hurdles that we kept dealing with was sewage treatment and the limitations that are caused by sewage treatment.”

Officials believe that a sewage treatment facility could help diversify business uses, such as adding more restaurants and establishing apartments in commercial buildings to create a more “vibrant commercial hub,” the draft of the RFP says, noting that this could be achieved while at the same time recognizing the village’s historic character, and its residents’ needs.

Mom-and-pop shops have been disappearing not only in East Hampton, but all over Long Island due to soaring rent prices, and online shopping.

“People aren’t as inclined to go downtown and shop as they once were—and some of that is beyond our control,” Village Board member Rose Brown said early this week. However, she said, people still crave the experience of going out to dinner, and a sewer system would allow more restaurants to operate.

Ms. Brown said she envisions a future Main Street and Newtown Lane with outdoor seating options, additional coffee shops, and frozen yogurt shops lining the street as people walk around and enjoy the village.

Board member Barbara Borsack agreed with Ms. Brown in another interview on Monday. “I’d love to see more restaurants and the kinds of shops that get people walking around at night,” she said.

Ms. Brown was previously involved with the village’s workforce housing committee, and the idea of second-floor apartments for schoolteachers, firefighters, police officers and laborers has been circling the Village Board for years.

If people are living in those apartments, that means more showers, dishwashers, toilets, and sinks are being utilized on a daily basis, adding to the septic flow.

Another problem with second-floor housing which the board hopes to address; tenants are required to have designated parking spots, which means the owners of the buildings would need to provide parking for all of the tenants, while parking in the village is already overcrowded and a struggle especially in the summer.

“I’m looking forward to putting this RFP out and getting advice from the experts on a strategic planning recommendation,” Ms. Brown said. “Maybe they’ll come back to us with innovative parking ideas we haven’t thought of.”

In coming days, Ms. Brown added, a new 21-spot parking lot on Osborne Lane will be ready for use, somewhat reducing congestion in the village.

Twenty percent of Community Preservation Fund money can be used for water quality improvement, which means the village could tap into that money to create a sewage treatment facility, Ms. Borsack said. “There’s a much bigger picture,” she said. “I’m optimistic. I hope we discover innovative ideas. It’s something we think about all the time.”

At the same time, she said, she saw very little support for expanding the commercial district.

Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. said at the work session that this would be the perfect opportunity to reach out to the town to achieve mutual goals.

“This isn’t just our agenda,” Ms. Brown said, referring to the Village Board. “There will be a lot of time for public discussion, and residents will be able to weigh in. This is a great first step in this whole process.”

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